Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Should NASCAR Take Stronger Stand Against Interfering With Leaders?

On Monday (May 1) at Dover Motor Speedway, Ross Chastain‘s aggressiveness got the best of him again, when he drove into the back of Brennan Poole, causing him to crash in turn 1.

Actually, it got the best of Kyle Larson, as Poole slid up and collected Larson, who looked to have one of the fastest cars on the track at the time and was advancing towards the front.

Larson returned to the track laps down and purposely cut off Chastain a few times as he was trying to run down eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr.

Prior to that, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Ty Gibbs did the same, allowing Truex to extend his lead a bit. It came with NASCAR recently taking a strong stance against manipulation of race finishes by interfering with the leaders.

This week Amy Henderson and Anthony Damcott tackle the topic in 2-Headed Monster.

Where Would All the Fun Go?

It’s frustrating when a driver gets held up by lapped traffic, but that’s just racing.

Would you rather have drivers just move out of the way for the leaders and let the leader win the race by half a lap, or would you rather the leader get held up, even if just for a corner, and give fans a chance to see a race for the win?

Why penalize lapped traffic for doing their job: racing? No matter if they are first or 21st, if a driver is racing for position, or to stay on the lead lap in the event of a caution, that should be their right. It’s unfair to give favoritism to the leader just because he’s trying to lap a driver for the first time.

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One might argue that lapped traffic holds up certain people to help a teammate or factory driver finish better, to which I retort: If a driver just pulls over and lets the leaders go by, especially if one of them is a teammate, then what’s the point of a teammate? As long as he’s not egregiously holding up the leader (i.e., blocking for laps on end), then it would be impossible for NASCAR to call it race manipulation.

One example at Dover was Ty Gibbs. Gibbs got lapped by teammate Truex, leaving Gibbs as the first car one lap down should a caution come out. It seemed like Gibbs got very racy when second-place Ross Chastain got to him. One could argue that Gibbs was trying his hardest to not lose Truex in the event that he lapped someone else, so Gibbs could fight for the lucky dog.

It’s ultimately on the leaders to find a way around lapped traffic. Earlier in the race, Aric Almirola was about to be lapped and gave the bottom to the leaders. However, William Byron, who was leading the race at the time, chose the wrong lane and essentially followed Almirola into the corner leaving the bottom open for Chastain to take the lead.

It was an unfortunate circumstance for Byron, but ultimately, he chose the wrong lane to take. It wasn’t like Almirola was blocking the leaders, as he gave them the bottom.

Byron just chose incorrectly, and it cost him the lead.

Similarly, it’s on Chastain to make the correct lane choice and pass Gibbs. If Gibbs is being lapped, Chastain obviously has the faster car, so theoretically he should be able to pass Gibbs with ease. It’s hard for NASCAR to penalize Gibbs for race manipulation unless he admits to it like Denny Hamlin did.

Besides, NASCAR handles lapped cars by displaying the blue flag with the yellow cross, signaling to lapped traffic (those who are beyond one lap down) that the leaders are coming and that they need to get out of the way. The sanctioning body has done its part to get lapped traffic out of the way, and typically they do – they just make it harder on some drivers to favor teammates.

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Or there’s the second option – drivers make it hard for leaders to pass as a way of retaliation, which we also saw at Dover.

Not long after Chastain finally made it around Gibbs, he came up on Kyle Larson, who was multiple laps down due to a crash started by Chastain on lap 81. Chastain tagged the No. 15 of Brennan Poole and sent him sliding down and back up the racetrack hard into the outside wall, collecting Larson who sustained heavy damage.

When Chastain tried to pass Larson, Larson held him up, costing him more than a second-and-a-half on Truex after spending the last several laps within a half-second of the No. 19 (even with Gibbs in the way). Ultimately, a late caution came out and allowed Chastain to have another shot at the win, but he ultimately finished second.

Personally, I’d rather have a driver retaliate against another driver by holding them up instead of going out of their way and wrecking him. I understand the principle of “an eye for an eye” but fighting fire with fire ensures that everybody loses, including the fans.

It’s almost impossible to find race manipulation in lapped traffic (unless they admit it), as most lappers are racing for position or the lucky dog, and intentionally wrecking a leader as a lapped car is a bad look. So just let them race and let the leaders figure out a way around them, like they always do. –– Anthony Damcott

NASCAR Made Their Bed on This One, and It’s Time to Lie in It

Driver blatantly holding up one of the race leaders when not racing him for position? Yeah, NASCAR needs to put an end to that.

In case you missed it, during Monday’s race at Dover, Larson finished multiple laps down after an incident between Chastain and Poole collected his No. 5 car.

It’s easy to understand Larson’s frustration; he was simply in the wrong place when Poole spun up the track. 

In reality, Chastain and Poole share the blame in the incident (Poole jumped out of the throttle very early getting into the corner, and Chastain, who was close behind, didn’t have much time to react).

Maybe Poole shouldn’t have backed out so quickly so early and maybe Chastain shouldn’t have been so close behind an inexperienced driver. It happened, it was a racing incident. Chastain certainly didn’t wreck Poole intentionally. But late in the race, Chastain was racing Martin Truex Jr. for the race win, just a half-second or so behind and closing. It was shaping up to be a decent finish for fans.

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Enter two other players: Ty Gibbs and Larson. Gibbs, Truex’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, threw a soft block at Chastain as Chastain lapped him, holding him up for a split second while allowing Truex to get by him easily. Gibbs finished one lap down in 13th.

Larson, on the other hand, got in front of Chastain and mirror drove him, blocking every move Chastain made and ultimately costing him seconds on track and any chance at the win. Larson was 41 laps down.

Earlier this season, Hamlin was on the lead lap and racing Chastain for position at Phoenix Raceway during an overtime finish attempt. Hamlin got loose and slid up the track, admittedly sliding into the side of Chastain (with whom he’s had a yearlong beef) and taking them both into the wall.

Because he admitted it, Hamlin was penalized by NASCAR, with monetary and point fines, for manipulating the outcome of the race.

If Hamlin’s move, which happened while racing for position at the finish, was race manipulation because he didn’t back out to avoid an incident, then Larson’s move was absolutely manipulation. To a lesser degree, so was Gibbs’. And NASCAR must act according to the precedent they set just last month.

Gibbs’ brief block to help his teammate is less egregious; Gibbs himself was racing for a decent finish and trying to stay in contact for the free pass should a caution come out. A monetary fine might be plenty to set an example of what team orders gone too far looks like.

Larson needs to receive the same penalty Hamlin got, perhaps with heftier fines. His was hardly a brief side-draft; he aggressively blocked Chastain and, in the process, robbed race fans of at least the chance at a battle for the win. If not backing out after over-driving a corner because you’re angry at the guy on the outside is race manipulation, then actively blocking him from multiple laps down can’t be anything else.

NASCAR has suffered from a lack of consistency in applying rules in the past. That’s never a good look, and with a new TV deal in the works, the sanctioning body needs to come across as consistent and fair to legitimize itself among other major sports. Fans care about consistency in the application of the rules, even if they don’t agree with the rules themselves.

And with Hamlin, NASCAR backed itself into a bit of a corner here — they have to treat blatant manipulation as such now.

Larson’s move was uncalled for.

He’s caused a crash or two by aggressive driving, and at best, his blocking comes across as hypocritical. At worst, it was a dirty, retaliatory move. Either way, NASCAR was clear on its stance after Phoenix, and it can’t change that stance for an incident that was much dirtier. — Amy Henderson

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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26 Comments
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C6RRACER

Absolutely could not disagree more. If Chastain pulled this crap with Earnhardt , Gordon, Rusty Wallace…he would be put in the wall. As he should be. There used be self governoring on the track and you knew it was coming. Fans reveled in it. Chastain does this every single week with no repercussion. Im not Hamlin fan at all but at least he had the berries to plant that idiot. So how long do we let the 1 car wreck people week after week. Its been too long already.

Dan

But yet it was OK for Earnhardt to “rattle their cage”.

Dan

I’m betting Hamlin would not had the “berries” to pull the crap on Earnhardt that he did on Chastain.

J.W. Farmer

I doubt that. Of all the drivers today and over the past two decades, Hamlin is probably one of those, like Harvick, Kyle Busch, etc, that would have fit fine with the late 80s-late 90s drivers who raced you clean in most cases to save equipment and earn points.

Howard

Absolutely agree.
f*** Chastain his time’s coming you go out and wreck two cars he wouldn’t even be in the lead he not only should have blocked him he should have wrecked him how to put his ass in the wall

sb

I thought ‘self policing’ was desirable. Why on earth would you try to call balls and strikes when it’s open for debate. Butt out.

janice

heck just give them the open field with no one else on it. geez! i thought this was racing.

Dean#9

The 1 car got what he deserved. If your going to dish it out. You should have to eat your share your self. 1 has caused the 9 problems in the past as well. Sometimes I wish Chase would give it back to them as well. But that’s Chase’s way. Goooooo #9 Elliott

Dean#9

Also these writers should keep their lips zipped. Let the racer’s race

Tracy Gunther

Couldn’t disagree with Amy more. Did Larson admit to blatantly blocking Chastain? No. How do you know that’s what Larson was doing? Are you in Larson’s head? No. “Dirty, retaliatory move”? How long have you been watching NASCAR Amy? Not nearly as long as some of us I’m guessing. It’s people like you who want to further whitewash NASCAR to the point of making it utterly boring. But that’s OK Amy, when you get your wish and NASCAR is all but gone, maybe you can be a gossip columnist for the National Enquirer.

Kurt Smith

I remember a Bristol race some years ago where Michael Waltrip was two laps down and well out of it, but he spent about twenty laps holding up Kasey Kahne because his sponsor wasn’t seen on television much that year and he was taking full advantage of the opportunity to get exposure.

It was BS, but should NASCAR have disallowed it? Absolutely not. And if Kasey decided enough was enough and put Waltrip in the wall, that should have been allowed too.

Let them race. Over-regulation is one of NASCAR’s biggest problems right now.

William

Should not allow blocking. Slow cars cause wrecks.Move or be moved.That’s real racing.That’s why NASCAR is losing interest.

Sylvia

Amy Henderson, I certainly can see your prioritize lay. Another example of not telling the news without prejudice.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sylvia
Bill B

As a rule, guys that are more than one lap down should GTFOOTW, if they don’t, knock them out of the way.
Guys trying to keep from going a single lap down should do whatever they have to, not to lose the lead lap, and knocking them out of the way should be the last resort. If it is done it should be done a gently as possible (hopefully without the wall being involved.
Blocking cars that are trying to pass you for position should be dealt with by the drivers, knock them out of the way.
Blocking cars SUBTLY to payback someone (like Larson did) should be encouraged as a way to payback without wrecking them. However, Hamlin overdid it when he blocked Chastain last year for two laps, that was not subtle at all.
If someone continues to not get the message (even though I like Chastain, he might qualify), then, yes, you might need to send them spinning to teach them some manners.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bill B
Dan Schowalter

Denny made the mistake of admitting he purposely took chastain with him in his incident. NASCAR has no choice when you admit to it. If you don’t open your mouth and admit to it then it’s speculation which you can’t do anything about. The newer generation has lost all respect for other drivers. I say it’s about time drivers do what they need to do to make the point that if your actions cause me problems the I am going to cause you problems. Would cut down on this go balls out regardless of the damage you do to others. Earnhardt Petty Pearson.. the list is long. Would not stand for drivers acting the way they do now days. Moving someone to win is one of thing. Causing wreck after wreck due to bad decisions is another. It’s high time some of these guys learn.
I’m not saying Larson hasn’t caused wrecks at times. But he does admit to his mistakes and trys not to do it again. Blatently wrecking anyone should not be tolerated. Getting in someone’s way to make a point that your not happy with over aggressive driving is completely understandable. What was not mentioned in article was Chastain ran truex back down in a couple laps after getting by Larson. Even caution flag didn’t help him bear truex.. hell 4 tires vs 2 didn’t help him. Truex was lights out at then end

Boone

Horrible ass article, couldn’t disagree with the end anymore. Did larson park it infront of him? No, he ran a normal line and didn’t break check Chastain or slam into him. It’s two weeks in a row Chastain has caused a huge ass wreck with larson getting the worse of it. Ross knew what he did wrong.

Larson isn’t a hypocrite. He admits when he does wrong, he isn’t out there causing wrecks taking people out.

Horrible article

JD in NC

Exactly right. Larson didn’t wall Chastain, like Denny did. Larson didn’t practically come to a stop in front of Chastain like Denny did. He simply took his line away and made it hard to pass. Kinda like Ryan Newman did to anybody that ever tried to pass him.

Echo

Not one person agrees with you Any. Larson wasn’t as stupid as Denny and admit he did anything wrong. Nascar will really open another can of worms if they fine Larson because no way Nascar can know what is in Larson’s head or how his car is driving . Denny was dumb, not many are as stupid as he is. Larson definitely won’t be admitting he did anything wrong. No way Nascar can do what you want them to do Amy.

Renae burgess

It’s all racing, and if a knucklehead can’t control his car from week to week maybe he shouldn’t be racing in the NASCAR cup series to begin with in the first place. I think everyone knows who I’m referencing. Honestly I watch cup series race every week just to see whose race he ruins for the day.

WJW Motorsports

Good job Amy. Folks reading actually think you believe this – rather than a writer taking the opposition side for the sake of the article. And it worked too – lots of new commenters inspired to yell… :-)

Alaracer

Everyone is talking about this week about Larson getting in Chastain s way and holding him up. Nascar didn’t do anything to chase Elliott for making Harvick lose the race to Larson. So what is the difference now. Harvick had that race won and Elliott held him up for 20 laps until his team mate could caught him and win advanceing him in to the playoffs. So why now because of the name

Moose

Move or get moved not Chastain fault two lappers racing side by side move or get moved that’s Nascar old school loyal fan

Robb

Like it or not Chastain is good for NASCAR and is needed to move this sport into the future. Drivers like Chastain are bringing back the grit and unpredictability this sport has been missing for several years. Chastain vs Earnhardt will always be a heated debate but the similarities are undeniable if you’re on the track be prepared to go fast or move over.

Last edited 1 year ago by Robb
Bill Rea

Manipulating races????? For crying out loud. NASCAR manipulates every single race by counting yellow flag laps. Just last week, Chastain had 17 laps and 4 tires to catch Truex. By the time the WWE got done, there were 7 laps remaining. At least 7 times this year NASCAR RULES dictated the outcome. Tony Stewart knows better. Long live SRX!

truestockcarfan

Let them police themselves. Stop trying to throw some of the blame on Poole. Even if he did slow down, Chastain stayed in the gas the whole way. Total his fault. As far as the lap down cars, they’re still in the race. If that means they hold somebody up because their teammate is in the lead or they just don’t like the guy, so be it. He just has to get ready to be put in the wall. The only problem I have is when a driver obviously uses his car as a 190 mph torpedo to t-bone another driver. Like Wallace did last year, turning straight down all 4 lanes to hit a wounded Larson while he was on the apron. Then getting out and trying to start a fight. If it had been anyone other than Wallace,he’d got punched in the face. That’s above and beyond racing. That just getting angry and trying to kill somebody. Ever situation is different so there is always going to be judgment calls and human error. For the most part let them police it themselves & if a driver can’t be trusted not to kill people, then don’t let him drive.

TMan50

I’m tired of watching the same Nascar BS week after week. It’s not about the driver’s skill or the best car; it’s like watching the goons in hockey. Nascar officials have had no control over it since. That, coupled with the fact of picking stupid races like Martinsville, road courses, or dirt racing has completely turned me off to Nascar…the biggest fiasco was the LA Colosseum race-JOKE!

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